ARIEL: Augmented Reality for Interpretive and Experiential Learning 

ARIEL is a collaborative project with The Franklin Institute in which the goal is the creation of an exhibit platform that uses scientific visualization techniques and social networking experiences to transform modern visitor interaction with traditional hands-on exhibits.  Specifically, each of the museum exhibit devices are enhanced with augmented reality (AR) features and serve as gateways to a connected virtual reality (VR) layer in which visitors interact socially to co-construct an experience within an associated virtual environment.  These layers are integrally connected, such that the individual AR experiences draw the visitor into the social VR environment for the purpose of learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) content as well as the 21st Century Learning Skills that many visitors already have and that all visitors need to develop.

Creative Code: Scratch

The MIT Media Laboratory and UCLA develop and study Scratch, a networked and media-rich programming environment designed to enhance the development of technological fluency among children ages 8-18. Scratch adds programmability to the media-rich activities that youngsters are increasingly engaged in at both school and home. Scratch allows youth to be no longer simply consumers of such media but producers as well, creating their own animations, art, and music in the process of learning the basic components of programming, such as conditionals and loops. Scratch is available free of charge at:

Funding: National Science Foundation

Image Credit: Communications of the ACM

Digital Tween Project: The World of Whyville is not only one of the leading virtual worlds geared for youth ages 8-18, but a remarkably popular site where youth can learn the elements of basic science through a variety of online games. Our investigations focused on how tweens learn to p the practicies and norms of to play in virtual worlds two aspects: How do children chose to spend their time at Whyville and how they do they become engaged in science on Whyville? We were particularly interested in two events: the annual outbreak of a virtual epidemic, called Whypox, and related vaccine sales and trades. Our observations captured players’ interactions online and offline in classrooms and afterschool clubs.

Funding: National Science Foundation

DRK-12 Biograph: Graphical Programming for Constructing Complex Systems Understanding in Biology

DRK-12 is a collaboration between UPenn's Graduate School of Education and MIT's Media Lab, working with high school Biology teachers in the Boston area.  This project seeks to address four areas of critical need in STEM education: biological sciences, complex systems, computational modeling, and equal access for all.  It integrates graphical programming and simulation software, StarLogo TNG, into the standard high school biology curriculum to improve learning of biology concepts through the introduction and understanding of core complex systems processes.  Instead of learning biology in discrete chunks, the chosen biological topics are connected through the framework of complex systems, and successively build in complexity from the basic building blocks of life to the interdependence and sustainability of life forms. 

E-Textiles: LilyPad Arduino

A multidisciplinary team composed of computer scientists, arts and computer science educators, and learning scientists from the University of Pennsylvania, MIT and Indiana University will research how to encourage roughly 400 youth (ages 10-18) to creatively engage with computational textiles in afterschool and school settings. Computational textiles—textile artifacts that are computationally generated or that contain embedded computers—can capture youths’ pre-existing interests in new media, fashion, and design while supporting learning and creativity in computer science, arts, design, and engineering.

Funding: National Science Foundation
Image Credit: Becky Stern

ITEST-Nano: Nanotechnology and Bioengineering in Philadelphia Public Schools

ITEST-Nano is a collaboration between the Graduate School of Education and the Nano-Bio Interface Center at UPenn and the School District of Philadelphia.  The project brings the latest scientific research and applications into high school classrooms through problem-based learning (PBL) curricula in nanotechnology and bioengineering.  This program has 5 goals: 1) through interactive and hands-on activities, teachers learn about cutting edge nano/bio concepts and align them with the core curriculum concepts; 2) teachers use computer simulations to help students visualize and compare macro, micro and nanoscale objects; 3) students communicate with peers and their teachers using IT tools to negotiate solutions to a real life problem scenario; 4) students develop interests in STEM education and careers through working with real scientists and experts from nanotechnology professions; and 5) teachers help students to learn about scientific inquiry and develop decision-making skills through problem-based and collaborative-learning pedagogies.